Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Golden Flax and Spelt Sourdough Loaf

Having successfully tried one recipe from this cookbook for our May bake, I checked it out from the library to see what else it had to offer.  Artisan Sourdough Made Simple looked to be a winner for me.  Now I have my own personal copy.  This amazingly delicious flax and spelt loaf just confirms a great recipe selection.  It's a cookbook I think well worth getting your own copy.

Of course it is a bonus that flax happens to be quite good for you as well, with its high levels of healthful omega 3 fatty acids.  Both the flax and the spelt have a lovely nutty flavor and the flax adds a soft springiness to the bread that is very enjoyable.  Oh, and this loaf sang to me when it was done!  I have had that happen only rarely, and it's a real treat to hear that wonderful crackling sound of an especially perfect crust cooling down.

I suspect that lovely crackle and thin crispy crust is due to the baking method.  This loaf is originally meant to be baked in a lidded pot like a dutch oven.  Now that I am actually paging through the beginning of the book, I see that the method I chose to approximate this is indeed listed there.  Hey, guys aren't the only ones who don't read directions.  So what I did was to invert a granite ware roasting pan bottom over the loaf on my baking stone.  It gives the same steam oven effect with inexpensive items many people already own.  I've had that old roaster for years and my mom gave me her nice pampered chef baking stone because she would never use it whereas I use it all the time.  They seem to work very well together.  The other nice thing about the roaster is that it is light and easy to maneuver.   At any rate, it seemed to work brilliantly.  My kids are devouring the loaf as we speak.  One with butter, and one swooning over how good it is with Boursin.

For once I did have bread flour on hand and so did use that as well as the all purpose, but I did substitute freshly ground sprouted spelt for the whole spelt flour.  It slightly changed the formula and water needs of the dough, so I did adjust amounts of flour a bit.  I also noted that the flax, which is meant to be pre-soaked, absorbed a good 90g of water and then held on to a lot of the rinse water as it seemed to me.  You are asked to add warm water just to cover the seeds and they swelled so quickly that I added a touch more.  Originally 60g, then 30g more.  I would recommend not using hot water, just warm, and stop as soon as the seeds are covered and don't add any more.  They will swell and absorb it all, as well as creating and keeping a gel during their rinse.  It's the nature of flax seed.  Lovely texture and crunch in the bread though!  So due to those factors, I added 120g extra all purpose flour to match the dough in the cookbook pictures.  Still a very nicely hydrated and somewhat sticky dough.  Not difficult to work with at all after the bulk rise.

So if you're looking for a tasty sourdough with health benefits as well as great flavor, give this one a try.  Try the May recipe too.  For that matter, just get a copy of the cookbook!

Golden Flax and Spelt Sourdough Loaf
Yield: 1 Large Round Loaf

50 g (¼ cup) bubbly, active starter
365 g (1½ cups plus 1 tsp) warm water
180 g (about 1¾ cups) whole spelt flour (I used freshly ground sprouted spelt, sifted)
150 g (1¼ cups) bread flour
150 g (1¼ cups) all-purpose flour (I added an extra 120g or 1 cup)
9 g (1½ tsp) fine sea salt
60 g (about ⅓ cup) golden flax seeds
Oil, for coating omitted

A few days before baking, feed your starter until bubbly and active. Store at room temperature until ready to use.  I used mine straight out of the fridge, it had been fed a little over a week ago.  I keep my hydration slightly less than 100% so it lasts well between feedings.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the starter and water together.  Add the flours and salt.  Mix with paddle to combine. Cover and let rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, soak the flax seeds in just enough warm water to cover while the dough is resting.  (Flax seeds must be soaked to prevent dehydrating the dough.)  Rinse and drain well in a fine sieve before using.  They will feel very sticky and gelatinous.
Add the flax seeds to the rough dough.  Knead them into the dough, using the dough hook, until incorporated.  It will take a few minutes.  The dough will be slippery at first, but after a minute or so it will feel less sticky to the touch.

Cover again and let rise at room temperature until double in size. This will take about 6 to 8 hours at 70°F (21°C). (About 10 hours for my cold starter.)  Optional Step: About 30 minutes into the bulk rise, stretch and fold the dough for added structure and height. Repeat this process, about 2 to 3 times, spaced 45 minutes apart.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly oiled surface.  The oil helps to combat any residual stickiness from the flax seeds.  Shape the dough into a round and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  (I simply shaped mine directly onto a floured towel, no oil required.)  Line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl or proofing basket with a towel and sprinkle with flour. (I used a banneton floured with rice flour.)  With floured hands, gently cup the dough and pull it toward you in a circular motion to tighten its shape.  Place the dough into the prepared bowl, seam side up.
Cover dough and let rest until puffy but not fully risen, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.  (55 minutes for me.)  Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C).  Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit the size of your baking pot.  Or just a rectangle if using a stone and a cover.

Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release.  (I inverted onto a pizza peel and parchment.)  Dust the dough with flour and rub the surface gently to coat. Poke your finger down into the center of the dough, going about three-quarters of the way through. Then make eight 3-inch (8-cm) cuts around the dough using the tip of a razor blade or knife.  Use the parchment to transfer the dough into the baking pot.  Or use a baking sheet or pizza peel to slide the loaf onto the baking stone and then cover with the roaster.

Bake the dough on the center rack for 20 minutes, covered.  Remove the lid/pan, and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. Lift the bread out of the pot, and finish baking directly on the rack for the last 10 minutes.  (This may not be necessary with the baking stone method, mine did not need the extra 10 minutes and was already at 200ºF internal temp.)  Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 1 hour before slicing.
This loaf is best enjoyed on the same day it is baked. Store at room temperature for 1 to 2 days in a plastic bag.

Approximate nutrition for one slice of about 60g:


  1. I wondered about the wetness of the dough. I tried this recipe a few times as written and it was a gloopy mess. Having said that - once I got it into the dutch oven, the end product was fine. I'm going to try adding extra flour next time. Thanks for the suggestion!

    1. Glad it worked out in the Dutch oven, but hope it turns out even better for you next time!

  2. can I use flaxseed meal or omit the flaxseeds altogether?

    1. I think you could get away with using flaxseed meal. I have not tried it myself. With greater surface area in the meal, it may be an even stickier dough. The meal would still need to be hydrated with water to match the hydration of the recipe. I would not omit it altogether because the flax adds such a fantastic flavor to this loaf. Plus the percentages are meant to incorporate it and a different recipe would do better than just trying to leave it out.

  3. I made this today and like others had to add more flour. When I calculated the hydration including the water needed to soak the flax seeds it worked out to about 93%. That it was too wet for me to handle, though I'm sure some bakers with more experience would be okay with it. I also reduced the amount of seeds . . . when I weighed out 60 grams it seemed too much for one loaf so went with 1/3 c that was about 2 tblsp less than the 60 grams.

    1. Yes, looking back, having to add a whole additional CUP (120g) of flour seems like an awful lot to me, which is what I did then and now. I do so love this bread though! The flavor of the flax seed is lovely to me.


Thanks for commenting, I love hearing from you! If you have any questions I will do my level best to answer them for you.